Pop song parodies, novelty songs, comedy rock… Comedy music is an actual thing. And it’s definitely a less confusing sub-genre than progressive-post-hardcore symphonic thrash (also pretending to be a real thing). Whether it’s a layer in a traditional standup set, or the act’s entire shtick, there’s a whole audience for the stuff (the same guys who whoop loudly when someone pulls out a guitar at the end of a house party, as opposed to running in the opposite direction like a normal person).
Indians comics have also started experimenting with the form, and while progress is still comparable to that of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train—in the works for five years now, without making any real headway—here are some slow but determined steps in that direction within the homegrown scene.
1. Alien Chutney
Vir Das is on a mission to be first at everything, and comedy music is just another thing for him to check off his list. Back in 2014, he introduced us to Alien Chutney, his comedy rock band, comprising big names from the indie music scene, including Sidd Coutto (drums, backing vocals), Warren Mendonsa (electric and bass guitar), and Kaizad Gherda (piano, backing vocals). Das is the band’s frontman on vocals (is there anything this guy can’t do?), rarely spotted without an acoustic guitar. Staying within the rock genre, their focus is on parodies of popular songs. They’ve taken on the Game of Thrones title track in ‘Winter is Coming’ (this is a TV show/ Called Games of thrones/ it’s a web of lies/ the minute you like a person they change the script and the character fucking dies), twisted Queen’s lyrics to create ‘Manmohan’s Rhapsody’, which ventures into a mildly political space, and they’ve even dedicated a whole jam to good ol’ Maggi. Between the gang, they’ve got a shit ton of talent, priming them for top spot on this list, even though they haven’t put out a new song in ages.
Here’s the full playlist available for public consumption:
And our favourites:
2. Aadar Malik
Let’s just get this out of the way: SNG Comedy’s Aadar Malik is Anu Malik’s nephew. And those genes have trickled all the way down and across. As a result, Aadar is not just a standup comedian and actor, he’s also one hell of a competent musician and singer. His acts almost always include music in some form. Most popular with his fanbase is his discography of ridiculous songs about being beyond friendzoned in ‘(She Called Me) Bhaiyya’, and his pet in ‘Goat’. In September this year, he released a whole album, Songs About Unnatural Things, available on Spotify and Apple Music. The album includes a song about wi-fi called ‘Wi-Fi’, one about the BMC, called…well, ‘BMC’, and his parody of that “cult classic”, ‘Sutta’.
None of the EIC guys are professional musicians, but they try. Of the lot, Azeem Banatwalla can hold a tune, and Kunal Rao is a karaoke beast; the rest look like they’re just kinda winging it. But more than their musical prowess, it’s their lyrical commentaries, on everything from Bollywood to politics that will have your full attention. Performed during the EIC Showcase shows, when all five comics perform in a single evening, it’s a joy to watch them lay a melodic smackdown on everything from the worst of Bollywood to the deeply disturbing politicians in power around the world.
Here’s one on Modi to the tune of Alisha Chinai’s ‘Made in India’, from the collective’s golden era when Atul Khatri and co-founder Sorabh Pant were still part of it:
And here they are, taking on Trump:
4. Kenny Sebastian
You already knew he was going to make this list. I mean, even we can’t remember the last time he powered through a whole hour without bringing his acoustic guitar into it. Lucky for everyone, Sebastian is not just cute about it, he’s also got some serious talent in place. Here he is taking about guitar players and women, working in hilarious impressions of Enrique Iglesias, Boyzone, James Blunt, John Mayer and Atif Aslam:
5. Them Boxer Shorts
The latest offering from Them Boxer Shorts, I Don’t Like Buts is a song dedicated to the assholiest word in the English language: “but”. Featuring Kanan Gill, Naveen Richard, and Raul Hota, it’s not the best rap or flow, but if you’re paying attention to the lyrics/subtitles/Naveen’s unstoppable face, it’s GREAT timepass. Ordinarily, we would’ve treated this as a one off, but they sign off saying we should subscribe because “there’s a lot more songs coming up, maaaan…” So we’re putting them on this list to hold them to it.
And here’re three extras, of comedians who aren’t strictly making music, but have been involved in it in some way.
6. Karunesh Talwar
This has nothing to do with comedy directly, but WHO KNEW KARUNESH TALWAR COULD SING? Listen carefully for Talwar doing “backing vocals”, which is a generous way of saying he shouts a lot in the background, in this track by Indian indie darlings, The Lightyears Explode (whose songs also feature on Talwars’ YouTube Clips—so seems like good barter).
7. Aakash Mehta
It’s alright, it’s okay, just another shitty day,
and I don’t care if you don’t like it I’m in love,
with the grass and with the smoke, with the fact that I am broke,
I love the sun and I love coffee
He can hold a tune and ukulele alright, even though this song on his YouTube channel, ‘Coffee’ isn’t the best proof of that because it’s a little bit terrible. Here it is anyway:
8. Varun Thakur
We think Vicky Malhotra’s song ‘Vickyleaks’, and this whole video really, is one of the best things Varun Thakur’s done so far. So much so that we don’t even care that’s it’s a sponsored promo for Bacardi House Sessions. (What is his face, even?)
Just watch it.
Fans loved it so much that AIB took bits from this and turned it into a whole… song.
Good luck getting the tune and his face out of your head.